Eid-e-Mubahila: Religious pluralism in the Islamic tradition

Mohammed Khaku
The festivity for Muslims and Christians to celebrate together. History narrates that around the end of the 9th Year of Hijrah, the Christians of Najran (Yemen) had received the Prophets’ letter of the inviting to visit Medina and learn about Islam – Jesus Christ (Isa ibn Maryam) The event of Mubahila was meeting between Prophet Muhammad and the Christian Delegation from Najran in the month of Zilhaj 10 AH – 631 CE. This was most important interfaith interaction between Christians and Muslims.Najran Christians sent a delegation of sixty people to visit the Prophet in Medina. The delegation consisted of about forty-five scholars and fifteen assistants.The meeting between the Prophet Muhammad and Christians had fascinating discussion about Christology, theological issues from oneness of God to the status of Prophet Jesus (Isa ibn Maryam).The three leaders of the delegation were al Aqib (political leader), Harith (Bishop/scholar), and al-Sayyid (organizer). As they enter Medina, the brother of Abu Harith, Kurz, recites a poem in which he says the religion of Christianity is opposed to the religion of Muslim.It was a very peaceful, but long (2 days) discourse (Kalam) at time argumentative (hajaj). During the meeting many questioned the Prophet on the Trinity. Prophet replied to them by quoting the verse of the Quran, which says,“Surely the likeness of Jesus is with Allah as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him ‘Be’, and he was. (This is) the truth from your Lord so be not of the disputers.” 3:59-60 The delegation showing hesitation, Allah commanded the Prophet to challenge the delegation to invoke curse on whoever is wrong should perish. Prophet reveals the verse from God:“But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves, then let us be earnest in prayer, and invoke the curse of Allah on the liars.” 3:61 The bishop (Asqaf) Abdul Masih (or Abu Harith) with his delegations retires to consider the challenge from the Prophet Muhammad. There is not much of the nighttime deliberations among the Najran, but accepted the challenge to meet next morning.On the Morning of 24th Zilhaj Prophet emerged with his family, carrying Al-Hussain in his arm with Al-Hassan clutching Prophet’s hand, followed by Fatima and Ali.Upon seeing this sight, the leader of the Christians Abdul Masih/Abu Harith who was moved and decided not to invoke a curse of Muhammad and his family, instead asked for peace and protection for the Christians. Al Tabari, commentary of the Quran, V 2 p 192-193 By God, I see faces which, if they pray to God for mountains to move from their places, mountains will immediately move…O believers in the Jesus of Nazareth, I will tell you the truth that should ye fail to enter into some agreement Muhammad (saw) and the souls whom Muhammad has brought with him, curse ye will be wiped out of existence.The Christian delegation agreed to the advice of Abu Harith. They beseeched the Holy Prophet to give up the agreed dialogue (Mubahila) and requested for themselves to be allowed to continue their faith, and protection by paying “Jizyz The Treaty of Najran guaranteed to the Christians security for “their lives, their religion and their property”. It gave Christian’s freedom of religion, stipulating that there would be no interference in the practice of Christianity, nor would any cross be destroyed. So why do we mark this day in celebration? Besides being an historic, and joyful day, there is a great deal to learn from it with numerous lessons to adopt – the rights and status of all faith must be duly recognized.This event speaks volumes through the centuries that non-Muslims acknowledged the holy status of the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt. And this is the only celebration (Eid) that Christians and Muslims celebrate together.This occasion should make Christians and Muslims come closer to each other through the message Jesus Christ, and Prophet Muhammad (saw.)This is an opportunity to reach out to the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kit?b) and invite them to our place of worship to learn about Islam and at the same time, we should take the interest to learn a little about them.The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of his time are an excellent starting point to discuss pluralism in the Islamic tradition.

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